EUSpring | Discussing Citizenship in Egypt: A comparative study of the post-2011 political debate

20 July 2015
Nouran Ahmed (Assistant Researcher, Arab Forum for Alternatives), Mahmoud Bayoumi (Assistant Researcher, Arab Forum for Alternatives) and Mohamed El Agati (Director, Cairo-based Arab Forum for Alternatives)

Having simultaneously evolved theoretically and in political practice over centuries, the concept of citizenship is one of the most complex in political and social sciences. It correlates and intersects with another set of concepts and values, especially the rule of the law and democracy. Its historical evolution, thanks to individuals and citizens’ movements’ struggle to gain equal rights in their political communities, needs to be captured by theory.

Citizenship is by nature a multi-dimensional concept. Legally, it refers to the equal legal status of individuals, for instance the equality between men and women. The political dimension is related to the practice of politics, joining parties, and participation in general. The religious dimension relates to the rights of all religious groups to practice their religious customs and rituals equally. The economic dimension is related to the non-marginalisation of different social categories, for instance women.

Therefore, there are various alternatives when it comes to defining citizenship. Some approaches see citizenship as a synonym for democracy. Another approach considers citizenship to be the process of creating a good citizen. There are more definitions of citizenship that regard it as the full and equal membership of the society of individuals, with all the rights and obligations this entails, regardless of one’s religion, gender, ethnicity, economic status, or political and intellectual affiliation.[1] Finally, there are approaches that define it in a dynamic way, as the everyday practice of and by the people to gain their economic, political, cultural, civil, and social rights without discrimination and based on the inclusion of citizens in the production process, which allows the fair distribution of resources.[2]

[1] For more information: “Bashier Nafea. Samir El-shimary. Ali Khalifa El-kwari. “Citizenship and Democracy in Arab countries”. Center for Arab Unity Studies, 2001.
[2] For more information: Samir Morcos, “The citizenship and changing: concept authentication and activating the practice”, Shorouk international Bookshop, 2006.

This paper is published in the framework of the EUSpring project on Democracy and Citizenship in North Africa after the Arab Awakening: Challenges for EU and US Foreign Policy ( The project is carried out by a consortium of organisations, including the European Policy Centre, University of Warwick in the United Kingdom, The German Marshall Fund of the United States, the Cairo Institute for Human Rights, the Centre for Mediterranean and International Studies in Tunisia and the Centre de Recherche sur l'Afrique et la Méditerranée in Morocco and coordinated by Università degli Studi L’Orientale in Naples. The project is supported by the Compagnia di San Paolo.